Talking Trash

Do you have the new automated trash pick-up service in your neighborhood in which each trash container left at the curb gets completely automatically lifted, emptied and crushed, with only the truck’s driver present? No more three man trash guy teams; two for gathering and emptying and one for driving the truck? Well this service started here a few months ago and, call me old fashioned, but I miss my guys I waved to each week, and I worry about how many lost their jobs in the name of modern efficiency.

Homeowners here in my town received advance notice that one new trash receptacle would be delivered to each household and a schedule of pick-up days would be included along with the additional schedule for items for recycling. When my new container arrived, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was huge! A gargantuan, blue, heavy, plastic, wheeled, garbage can that could comfortably hold several of me inside, it had a handle across the top rear surface so one could tilt it back on its wheels and roll it to the curb. I pulled out my yardstick and measured it: 30” x 30”x 45” deep, it came up to just below my shoulders. Maybe for a family of five or seven, it would be adequate with the two times a week pick-up schedule, but for me, that was WAY over the top! And my poor little 100 year old next door neighbor wouldn’t be able to get it to the curb at all since she used a walker. I solved that problem by putting them both out at the same time.

That got me to thinking, though, about when I lived in Germany. We had garbage pick-up once a week and the container we had was one small circular can approximately 15” wide at the top, tapering some to the bottom, and it was about 35” tall. I have no idea how other larger families managed. It was tough for us, three people. The main problem we had was the American packaging of the products we bought at the military base. We Americans love to put lots of packaging around small objects to fool ourselves into thinking we’re getting more for our money. We often don’t bother to flatten or break down boxes that things come in, either, because here in the U.S. there aren’t always restrictions about this. We’re a large country with the room, we think.

It’s actually rather comical watching me with American packaging even today, all these years later. For instance, I buy my orange juice in a half-gallon waxy cardboard container and when it is empty, I squeeze it in the middle with my fingers and then step on it to fold up the bottom and down the top, and while I’m stepping on it I reach down and screw the top back on the carton so no air can expand it even a smidge. Only if it is perfectly flat will it see the dark interior of my garbage can. I’ve caught my son looking at me with that, “Are you out of your mind?” look, complete with matching grin.

Now, I put my perfectly flat trash out once every three weeks unless an odor requires it go out sooner. I’m one person, I don’t generate much trash, but when I do, it’s FLAT!


Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month.


Filed under musings

16 responses to “Talking Trash

  1. Susan Coggins

    As Americans, we will never understand that we need to be overpackaged for every item. In our town, we have two large regular bins and one large bin for recycles. Monday is pickup day for lawn trimmings and recycle. Tuesdays and Fridays are regular trash pick up days. A bit much for most of us.

    I always enjoy your blogs. A new book in the near future?

    • Susan, I see you have a very similar trash situation in your town. Interesting. I don’t think we consumers are fooled by product packaging as much as manufacturers think, but what do I know.
      I appreciate you faithfully reading my blog and thank you for your comments. Who knows what the future holds. 🙂

  2. I have gotten quite lazy as I age as far as garbage goes. I totally get what you are saying. I used (keyword being used) to fold up my boxes and crush my cartons as well. Just like you stepping on them to make sure they were flat and then putting the lid back on them. I don’t know why I got so lazy or when? Thank you for bringing this to my attention again. I shall have to work on this.

    • What a pretty name, Cheynoea. If we have room for our trash, it’s not really necessary to go to all the trouble of folding and smashing, so it’s easy to just not do it. It probably gets burned at the dump, too, so I can understand being “lazy.” Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it.

  3. Just call me the flat trash lady, too!

  4. Pat

    An interesting and amusing blog, Coco. It irritates me, too, when I see unflattened boxes in our “refuse corral”. Disrespectful! I defnitely belong to “The Squash That Container Society”.

  5. I do exactly the same with my trash. Like you, I have a massive plastic can for recycling. But old habits insist the yogurt pots fit inside each other, cardboard boxes collapse to flat card, and milk jugs and juice boxes are all well-squeezed before being disposed of.

  6. Pat

    Hi Coco,
    I’m in agreement with the ladies who “smash their trash”! It angers me to see unsmashed cartons placed near our dumpsters, all deposited by inconsiderate and lazy people.
    All the best smashing!
    Pat, self-appointed Prez of “Smash the Trash Society”

  7. Eileen

    I get what you are saying about the monstrous sized trash receptacles! My 83 year old mother- in-law has the same problem as your neighbor about getting the can to the curb. It far out does her in size. If it should topple over on her she would be lost. However, my youngest son, family of four, with two young children, could easily fill two of those receptacles in one week. I always shake my head at how full their trash bins are…and even though they have mandatory recycling in the “blue carts”, they ignore it. However, they are fast to choose organic and natural in their food choices. Some things I just don’t understand.

    • Your comment, Eileen, was really interesting. I feel for your 83 year old mother-in-law. And I’ll bet your youngest son’s family doesn’t make things flat! We all have our own priorities and that’ll have to do. Thanks for taking time to read my blog and for your comment.

  8. Where I lived in Germany, the Germans would routinely come and dig through the dumpsters in the American housing area because they knew that Americans threw away all kinds of things that we’re still usable or that could be fixed and reused. The Germans wore their clothing for decades whereas some Americans threw things away if they lost a button or had a little tear in the seam. It was embarrassing to me and encourage me to adopt a new way of thinking about what I threw away. The only problem is, I have become a pack rat with the many things that I purchased accumulating even though much of it probably should be thrown away. I guess I need to learn the concept of a happy medium.

    • Sherrie, I know exactly what you mean. I’ve also become a pack rat, but I psych myself up when I start a purging project and recite this mantra over and over while purging: “Be Ruthless, be ruthless, be ruthless!” I find this method actually helps, especially when many items are donated to charity. I’ve gotten rid of my junk and someone else has a treasure.
      Thanks for reading my blog and for commenting.

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